Apple unveiled Healthkit, its combination health-app/cloud platform back in June, and now it’s apparently talking to some highly respected hospitals about getting on board.
The company is in discussions with Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins, as well as medical practice management and health record software Allscripts about how its Healthkit platform can work with heathcare providers, reports Reuters.
The alleged talks mean that Apple is increasingly trying to gain a foothold in the medical industry for the launch of its upcoming health apps. But federal laws governing the handling of patient data may make the creation and release of these apps exceedingly complicated.
Apple announced Healthkit at its World Wide Developers Conference this year. Where many companies are looking to create consumer-level health trackers, Apple wants to partner with hospitals to capture a larger slice of the health tech market.
The new Health app will collect a number of body metrics, including blood pressure, heart rate, and stats on diet and exercise, coalescing the information in one place.
Right now, a variety of third-party apps collect health-related data, but there is no single place where all that information is stored or easily accessed. Apple is looking to create a database that third-party apps can connect to, so clients can store and share health metrics with physicians and other apps.
But building this database of health information is an incredibly difficult task. The medical world is bound by a web of state and federal laws that protect patients against malpractice and ensure the privacy of their records. If Apple wants to play with big medical data, it’s going to have to follow the same rules medical institutions do in safeguarding patient data — something health apps have struggled with for years.
And not all patient/consumer data is governed by the same set of laws. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, for example, protects the way health providers or insurers store and share patient information like medical records or bills. So any information in Apple’s health cloud gleaned from a partnership with the Mayo Clinic will have to be stored in compliance with HIPAA; however, data collected from, say, a running app wouldn’t face those requirements.
For consumers, it may be difficult to determine which data is legally protected and which is not.
For it’s part, Apple looks very focused on keeping patient information safe. The Health app, for instance, lets patients determine whether they want to share stored information with third-party apps, according to Reuters, which also reported that health data stored in iCloud will be encrypted both in transit and at rest.
Apple has already acknowledged partnerships with Nike, Epic, and the Mayo Clinic but has not yet disclosed discussions with other hospitals.
While Apple may be working with health experts and government agencies to ensure the legality of its Healthkit, it’s uncertain what regulation third-party apps that link to Healthkit will be subject to.
Healthkit is likely to debut at the same time as iOS8.